University drawn into corruption claims against Spanish PM’s wife

Pedro Sánchez says he might resign over levelling of ‘falsehoods’ against Begoña Gómez, connected to her time working for IE University

April 25, 2024
IE University campus
Source: iStock/JJFarquitectos

The corruption allegations against the wife of the Spanish prime minister focus in part on her employment by a foundation funded by a leading private university, local media have claimed.

Pedro Sánchez suspended public duties and said that he was considering resigning after a Madrid court said that it had opened a preliminary investigation into Begoña Gómez “for the alleged offence of influence peddling and corruption”. Mr Sánchez has led Spain since 2018.

The court did not provide further details of the case, but said that it followed a complaint made by the anti-graft group Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), whose leader has ties to the far right.

Details of the Manos Limpias complaint published online by the Cadena Ser website indicate that it was based on media reports and put a focus on support in 2020 for the IE Africa Center, which is linked to Madrid’s IE University, provided by a tourism group called Globalia. That same year, the airline Air Europa, which is part of Globalia, received a €475 million (£407 million) bailout from the Spanish government as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a lengthy statement published on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Sánchez said that his wife would work with the court to “clarify facts that are as scandalous in appearance as they are non-existent”, and said that Ms Gómez was taking legal action over the reporting of “falsehoods” about her.

He said that he would “stop and reflect” on whether he should continue as prime minister. “I urgently need to answer the question of whether it is worth it, despite the mud into which the right and the extreme right try to turn politics,” Mr Sánchez said.

IE University is a private institution with campuses in Madrid, Segovia, Castile and León, which offers courses in areas including business and law.

In its statement, the university said that Ms Gómez had led the Africa centre between 2018 and 2022, and that the centre was funded by IE University and the IE Foundation, which offers scholarships for study at the institution.

IE said that the Africa centre “did not receive any financial contributions from external sponsors” between 2018 and 2022, but that in January 2020 it had signed a collaboration agreement with Wakalua, a Globalia initiative, under which Wakalua was due to provide four plane tickets for speakers to an event in London.

“However, this collaboration agreement was interrupted and never executed due to the circumstances of the time. Neither IE University, the IE Foundation, nor the Africa Center have ever received financial contributions from Globalia or Wakalua. And IE University has not had further contact or developed any projects with these institutions,” a university spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman added that Ms Gómez’s contract had included “clauses of incompatibility”. “The purpose of these clauses was to protect the parties involved and ensure that there were no practices benefiting from Begoña Gómez’s family position for economic gain. Additionally, it prohibited contracting with public companies or those directly or indirectly owned by the public administration,” the spokeswoman said.

When Ms Gómez left IE, it was reported that she would join Complutense University of Madrid as co-director of a new master’s in public and private fundraising for non-profit organisations.

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